I am thankful for the opportunity to learn drama-based education from the Drew Khan and the Anne Frank Project (AFP). The skills are adaptable to various settings (K-12 education, colleges/universities, community agencies, organizations, etc.) and have been vital in my journey as an educator, particularly with helping create spaces for individuals and group transformation.
**What is Drama-based Education**
Drama-based Education (DBE) is an active learning approach that uses the story-building process to engage participants in identity development, community building, and conflict resolution. DBE is participant-driven and challenges participants to utilize their their bodies to create individual and collective stories. The process looks (and feels) silly at times, but the skills and experience developed in the process become a powerful learning tool for future experiences. Sold?
**DBE with the Urokundo Village/Learning Center Teachers**
We return the Urokundo Village, which also includes a primary school called the "Urukundo Learning Center" open to Mama Arlene's 'children' and other local Muhanga children in the village. There are about 702 students in PreK- 6th grade (also known as "primary") and about 32 teachers total at the Urokundo Learning Center.
During the first day of training, we performed our play, Anne Frank in Rwanda 2018, to give teachers a sense of the DBE story telling process and outcome. The play attempts to connect the experience of young children during the Jewish holocaust and Rwandan genocide, in our play, this was Anne Frank and a young Rwanda child. The play was intended to be an icebreaker for Rwanda teachers to show teachers that there is a universal element to story telling.
Following the performance we split into 4 groups based on subject area. I was matched with social studies teachers teaching their students the history of Rwanda! Talk about an amazing opportunity! I get to teach Rwandan educators tools to talk about a rich, beautiful, and gruesome history? I had some nerves about this, but there always is a learning opportunity in a good challenge!
Early in the DBE training always seems to be the most challenging for new DBE participants, because it requires a high level of vulnerability and participation. I remember when Drew came to the University of Missouri College of Education (MizzouEd) for my first DBE experience in 2015. I think I laughed for the first 10 minutes after he introduced the "warm up" activities. Games like "pass the pulse" and "Ka Balls" were judged as childish before. Now, I see them as crucial activities (still hilarious) to bring groups to the present moment and focused on building (stories) as a collective. Plus, I understand the deep wisdom that kids model for adults in their innocence and playful BEing. I think we need more of that in the world! Nonetheless, in Rwanda, it was my turn to be the goofball and ask for presence and focus to tell the story of the Rwandan social studies teachers!
My co-facilitator, Maddie , and I introduced the "warm up" games/activities that would help our teachers build their stories as a collective. The goal of these warm-up activities are to get teachers to challenge any tendency to overly intellectualize educational content for students and to challenge them to use their voice and body to BE the content that they want to teach and learn. After the introduction, I modeled many of the games/activities we would use, which meant being goofy, which if you know me, is super easy for me. I think this modeling helped the Rwandan educators feel comfortable trying the new style of learning. Shortly after the introduction of the activities, I noticed the teachers began to own the activities as their own evident by the group participation. I could tell these educators were committed to learning skills that would help them develop as educators, even if that meant leaving their comfort zone!
Next, our social studies teachers broke Rwanda history into 3 domains for student understanding (pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial Rwanda). We spent time discussing what these themes meant to each participants and important elements that they wanted to include in a story about each domain. We would use this infomration to create stories during the next day of training.
On the second day, it was apparent the teachers quickly owned the DBE skills as their own (i.e. stopped thinking content and began BEcoming/acting content) and were ready to use the skills to tell the story of Rwanda's history. I noticed many smiles and bright energy from the Rwandan educators, maybe best described as a sense of freedom. Asking educators, to stop thinking and BE the content they want to teach is not easy and challenges a traditional "know it all" model for many educators across culture. Nonetheless, the Rwandan teachers responded positively to the challenge. In the stories of Rwandan history, the teachers told shared powerful stories about the beauty of Rwanda during pre-colonial times which included prospering agriculture, trade, informal educational pratices and cultural practices. They also discussed the challenging moments during colonial times in Rwanda which included the introduction of missionaries, segregation, war, genocide, and resistance.
**Reflections on the Training with Urokundo Educators**
Discussing Rwandan history with Rwandan educators was fun and inspiring, but this was no easy task. Out of respect for Rwandans and Rwandan culture, I had to become a learner to learn the nuance of Rwandan culture that I could not have learned from any documentary or article online. For instance, I knew a lot of the facts related to the Rwandan genocide from articles and documentaries; however, nothing compares to the personal stories of Rwandans that experienced the genocide, many of which were in my group. The beauty of DBE is that it does not impose content on participant, but only requires that participants be allowed to tell personal stories unique to the content agreed on by participants. This is in line with Paulo Freire's work in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed; how can people use the their story and experiences and mutual collaboration to develop knowledge and use it to create change?
Other challenges associated with teaching across culture included language barriers, as a monolingual English speaker, and nuances associated with collectivistic culture. As previously discussed in the blog, most Rwandans speak Kinyarwandan, while only some speak English fluently or as a first language (more youth will speak English because it is now taught alongside Kinyarwandan and French in Primary schools in Rwanda). This presented challenges in communication for me as a facilitator. For example, there were times I wanted to give directions for group activities and recognized that I was speaking English too fast to be understood and, for some, that the language barrier was too great to be understood at all (I learned quickly that I have taken communication for granted as an English speaker in a English speaking country. I challenge you to place yourself in environment/s where English in not the first language spoken. I think you will have a humbling experience that will give you an idea of what I'm attempting to describe.) Luckily, I had several amazing translators in my group and used this challenge as an opportunity to practice my DBE skills as a facilitator, specifcally by using the combination of voice and body to (i.e. non-verbal communication) to enhance communicate with participants.
Next, I soon became aware of the depth of collectivism in Rwandan/African culture. There is an activity called the "Machine Game" where participants build an abstract machine based on a common theme (e.g. We built a "love machine" and a "Rwanda Pre-Colonial Machine"). Participants are asked to join the machine one-by-one and perform original functions of the machine using only voice and body. At first, 3-4 teachers would join the machine together and would perform the same voice and body movement as other teachers. I was confused about why this was happening, particularly after modeling the activity with my co-facilitator. After a while Drew stopped by and reminded me to remain patient with the group. As Westerners, our individualism can create blind spots in how we interact with ourselves and our outside world. In this instance, I was witnessing the collective nature of educators in a collectivistic country. What may have been perceived as doing the 'wrong thing,' really was a beautiful cultural nuance. I am thankful I witnessed this level of collectivism, which is different than what I have been exposed to in the U.S.
During the final day or training, we were invited into our teachers' classrooms to watch our teachers implement the newly learned DBE skills! I was impressed to see the teachers own the skills as their own and engage their students in DBE! The litmus test was the smiles exchanged between students and educator. Every student was involved in a way that might be difficult to find in the typical U.S. public school. As outlined in DBE education framework, it is crucial that DBE remain fluid and customizable to unique educational and contextual demands (i.e. culturally sensitive and adaptable). Given what I observed, I imagine that our Rwandan educators will continue to adapt the DBE skills, as I have as an educator, to meet unique content, student, and culture needs.
The 3-day teacher training was exhausting considering the emotional and physical investment, but it was well worth the energy exchange. I believe these skills can free many educators and students from the indoctrination machine that we have come to know as education. Nonetheless, at the end of each training day, I looked forward to hanging out with the Urokundo village kids. These fun and curious children even asked questions about what they observed their teachers learning during the DBE training. They were excited to hear that their teachers were learning new skills to be better teachers and expressed gratitude for helping make their teachers better at their job!
I am grateful for the opportunity to teach across culture, particularly in Rwanda. Despite challenges in communication and cultural differences, I feel a greater sense of connectedness to our global (humyn) story that I believe we are writing everyday. With my teaching experience in Rwanda, I feel better prepared to navigate the challenges and successes of teaching, formally and/or informally across culture, particularly using the power inherent in our individual and collective stories.
A lil' teaching preparation never hurt anyone!
The story built and performed (Part 1)!!!
The story built and performed (Part 2)!!! Can you guess what is happening in this story?!
Another story built and performed! You see the smiles (and co-facilitator, Maddie :) )
Team Kabiri (#2) 4Life!
2 Team Kabiri members/educators using DBE in their classroom during the final day of training! Twas a beautiful sight <3 !
Urokundo hangin' post-workshop!
Reuben Faloughi, M.Ed., is a fifth-year doctoral candidate studying psychology at the University of Missouri (MU). He recently defended his dissertation, which examined the effects of an intergroup dialogue-based diversity and social justice course on students' multicultural development. The course, now required for all MU College of Education students, was heavily influenced by personal experiences in the AFP/Dr. Kahn's drama-based education training, Division I athletics, the Fall 2015 student movement at MU, and other transformational life experiences. Reuben will complete his Ph.D. on internship at the University of Florida and graduate in Spring 2019. For more visit: